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Wind, Wine, and Wildflowers

Posted November 12, 1997

As more players are knocked out of the main event with each passing day, they
Fringed Lily (Sep - Nov)
can console themselves with the glories of the Western Australia countryside - now ablaze with spring wildflowers - and in the many social events organized by their Ozzie hosts. Strong winds from the Indian Ocean have been a factor in the play for the last two days. The climate is similar to that of the California coast, balmy periods alternating with windy ones in a regular cycle, as the interior warms up and draws in the cooler ocean currents, then cools down as the cycle repeats. It's too soon to say what the weather will be like for the finals on the weekend.

At 11 AM, 11th November, a single gunshot signals the start of a minute's silence in memory of the victims of war. Another gun shot one minute later, and battle resumes on the ten croquet lawns at Moorabinda, with defeat looming for certain players, including all five Australians in contention on day one of the knock-out. There are only two Australians left to carry the flag through to the second round: Greg Bury from Queensland, Australia's hardest hitter; and local "Golden Girl" Helene Thurston.

Helene is the only Western Australia representative in the Bunbury championship (Ashle Faulkner having moved "abroad" to Victoria) and her progress on the courts has been closely followed by a large gaggle of "groupies" who wildly applaud every roquet, every hoop, if fact virtually every shot. Helene is President of the Western Australian Croquet Association (Inc.) and plays her croquet at the Como Croquet Club. The locals will be rooting for her on Wednesday against Ian Dumergue, a Kiwi presently living in Queensland, who is famous for his mallet with a zig-zag shaft. [Editor's note: Thurston won the match in two games.]

The Plate event has also commenced, but with only two rounds taking place so far of the three originally programmed for Tuesday. One round one match took five and a half hours to complete! Time limits will no doubt be needed.

The day concluded with a most enjoyable and informative wine and cheese evening chez major sponsors Westralian Sands. The local (and excellent) Capel Vale wines were presented along with some tasty local cheeses and sausages (in this case, "local" meaning "Milano" salami, "Hungarian" sausage, "Danish" salami and so on!). The players who traveled by coach to the venue were treated to an extra tour of the surrounding countryside, stand-in Dutch croquet-playing bus driver, Fred Gazendam, losing his way in the Australian dusk! (Croquet fans from the Netherlands will be pleased to hear that Fred, who emigrated to Australia many years ago, is proudly flying the Dutch flag on the croquet lawns of Western Australia.)

The wind is even stronger now, although the temperature is holding up in the mid-twenties. Spare a thought for the players with 12-inch mallet heads!

[Peter Payne is a player in the World Championship representing Switzerland. Click here to read the last installment of his journal.]

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